Category: Movie/Book Reviews

My Introduction to Montaigne

In plodding my way slowly through the Great Books series, I found a special treat in Michel de Montaigne, a 16th Century French philosopher.  His thoughts peel back the surface of human interaction, often to an uncomfortable degree.  But he does it in such a self-effacing and often humorous way that we take it in stride and ingest it.  He is surely a great mind that deeply influenced many others, including another of my favorites, Eric Hoffer.   (more…)

The True Believer by Eric Hoffer; book review

I recently read for the third time a book I was introduced to in PoliSci 101 as an extra credit assignment.  In the past, to me The True Believer; Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements by Eric Hoffer was an interesting theoretical book about sociology, based on observations of the past.  This time, its voice was contemporary and reverberating.  Every paragraph was an elucidating commentary on the news of the day. (more…)

“Resurrection” by Leo Tolstoy – Book Review

Tolstoy’s very readable tale of Prince Dmitry Ivanich Nekhlyudov, a man humbled by the results of his past sins and attempting to right wrongs and redeem himself, is a timeless criticism of human attempts at civilization and self-rule. In the process of the story, Tolstoy skewers high society, the church, the government, the military, the courts, lawyers, land-owners, revolutionaries, the prison system, and anything else he passes on the way. But he also reveals his life-view of Christian anarchy, the idea that man should follow the teaching of Christ despite any contravening man-made institutions, forms, and influences. (more…)

“The Summer of 1787: The Men Who Invented the Constitution” book review

Last week I finished a new book called The Summer of 1787: the Men Who Invented the Constitution by David O. Stewart. The author does a good job of weaving together vignettes of the Framers, notes on the contemporary situation, and the actual goings-on in the Convention. I came away with more knowledge, understanding, cynicism, hope, and respect. (more…)

“John Adams” book review

I just finished John Adams by David McCullough. What a fine rendering of a great, courageous, intelligent man! To begin with, the book is very well written and readable; McCullough does a great job of making a compelling story out of facts, quotes and dates.

But the treasure he uncovers for the readers is incredible. A little-known, one-term president squished between Washington and Jefferson comes to life as a giant of his time, at least equal to his presidential bookends. (more…)

“Why We Fight” movie review

In the middle of reading Eisenhower: Soldier and President by Stephen E. Ambrose, I saw in the video store a picture of Eisenhower on a documentary called Why We Fight. It was the Grand Jury Prize Winner at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival.

The movie’s launch-pad is Eisenhower’s 1961 farewell speech in which he warns America of a military-industrial complex and draws that concept out to the current war in Iraq. (more…)

Movie Review: The Great Debaters

Saturday Heather and I watched The Great Debaters, a show produced by Oprah Winfrey and directed by Denzel Washington based on the actual 1935 debate team from then-exclusively black Wiley College in east Texas who did so well locally and regionally that they were eventually invited to debate against Harvard in Cambridge. How much of it is true I don’t know, but the story is compelling, the acting is good, and the message is very important.

It made me think about a lot of things, among them: (more…)

Sicko the movie

Last night I watched Sicko, Michael Moore’s film about the U.S. healthcare system. I’ll give you some time . . .OK, now that you’ve recovered from the mention of the hated film-maker, can we move on? It was a movie that was disturbing, revealing, compelling, funny, infuriating, pandering, provocative, silly, and meaningful all at once. (more…)